Indices of change, expectations, and popularity of biological treatments for major depressive disorder between 1988 and 2017: A scientometric analysis

Bach X. Tran, Giang H. Ha, Giang T. Vu, Long H. Nguyen, Carl A. Latkin, Kalpana Nathan, Roger S. McIntyre, Cyrus S. Ho, Wilson W. Tam, Roger C. Ho

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background. Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is the most common psychiatric disorder with high prevalence and disease burden. Biological treatments of MDD over the last several decades include a wide range of antidepressants and neurostimulation therapies. While recent meta-analyses have explored the efficacy and tolerability of antidepressants, the changing trends of biological treatments have not been evaluated. Our study measured the indices of change, expectations, and popularity of biological treatments of MDD between 1988 and 2017. Methods. We performed a scientometric analysis to identify all relevant publications related to biological treatments of MDD from 1988 to 2017. We searched the Web of Science websites for publications from 1 January 1988 to 31 December 2017. We included publications of fluoxetine, paroxetine, citalopram, sertraline, amitriptyline, fluvoxamine, escitalopram, venlafaxine, duloxetine, milnacipran, desvenlafaxine, levomilnacipran, clomipramine, nortriptyline, bupropion, trazodone, nefazodone,mirtazapine, agomelatine, vortioxetine, vilazodone, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), vagus nerve stimulation (VNS), deep brain stimulation (DBS), and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). We excluded grey literature, conference proceedings, books/book chapters, and publications with low quality as well as publications not related to medicine or human health. The primary outcomes assessed were indices of change, expectations, and popularity. Results. Of 489,496 publications identified, we included 355,116 publications in this scientometric analysis. For the index of change, fluoxetine, sertraline and ECT demonstrated a positive index of change in 6 consecutive periods. Other neurostimulation therapies including rTMS, VNS, DBS and tDCS had shown a positive index of change since 1998. We calculated the index of change of popularity index (PI), which indicates that from 2013 to 2017, the number of publications on tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) were reduced by 85.0% and 81.3% respectively, as compared with the period 2008–2012. For the index of expectation, fluoxetine and ECT showed the highest index of expectations in six consecutive periods and remained the highest in 2013–2017. For popularity, the three antidepressants with highest PI were fluoxetine (4.01), paroxetine (2.09), and sertraline (1.66); the three antidepressants with lowest PI were desvenlafaxine (0.08), vilazodone (0.04) and levomilnacipran (0.03). Among neurostimulation therapies, ECT has the highest PI (2.55), and tDCS the lowest PI (0.14). The PI of SSRI remained the highest among all biological treatments of MDD in 2013–2017. In contrast, the PI of ECT was reduced by approximately 50% during the period 2008 to2012 than that in the period 2013 to 2017. Conclusions. This scientometric analysis represents comprehensive evidence on the popularity and change in prospects of biological treatments forMDDfrom1988 to 2017. The popularity of SSRI peaked between 1998 and 2002,when their efficacy, tolerability and safety profile allowed them to replace the TCAs and MAOIs. While the newer neurostimulation therapies are gaining momentum, the popularity of ECT has sustained.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2255
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 1 2019


  • Antidepressants
  • Depressive disorder
  • Electroconvulsive therapy
  • Neurostimulation
  • Scientometric analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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